Preview: Cardiff City

It is really starting to feel that something is special is brewing at the Coventry Building Society Arena. After the late drama of the opening two home wins, the Sky Blues found a different way to win against a tough Middlesbrough side. It’s still early days, but the combination of results, style of play, atmosphere, and the apparent connection between fans and players, is making Coventry City home games absolutely unmissable right now.

The first midweek home league game of the season could well test that optimism, in more ways than one. Cardiff City will provide a sterner inspection of this Coventry City side’s mettle than Middlesbrough, an in form physical outfit who will load the box at every opportunity. Overcome this test, and it’ll be another sign that this Sky Blues side is in the upper reaches of the table on merit.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Moore; Hyam, McFadzean, Clarke-Salter; Dabo, Hamer, Allen, Maatsen; O'Hare; Waghorn, Gyokeres.
Possible Line-Up

It would be a bold decision by Mark Robins to make any changes to the starting line-up right now. However, that didn’t stop him bringing Jamie Allen into the team ahead of the in-form Ben Sheaf last time out. There may be one or two changes made to account for the threat that Cardiff City pose.

With Cardiff so keen on putting crosses into the penalty area, Mark Robins may want to bring another midfielder into the side to help the team close the opposition down in wide areas. That could see Ben Sheaf return in place of Martyn Waghorn, with Jamie Allen pushed further forward, however, it may well be possible to task the two strikers with tracking back to help close Cardiff’s wide players down.

The one other change could be Todd Kane coming into the side ahead of Ian Maatsen. Kane could be better-suited to stand up to Cardiff’s physicality than Maatsen, although, the Dutch left wing-back stood up pretty well against Middlesbrough and offers greater attacking threat as a natural, skilful option on the left.

Last Time We Met

Cardiff City served up a reminder of just how far the Sky Blues were from competing with the better teams in the Championship last season with a dominant 3-1 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium back in February. There wasn’t initially much in the game, but some naïve Coventry City defending made it very easy for Cardiff, specifically, Kieffer Moore, to score twice before half-time.

Any hopes of an unlikely second-half rally and comeback were summarily dismissed in the opening seconds after the break, with Cardiff taking a quick free-kick – with Moore once again central, bullying the Sky Blues defence to win the set-piece – and finishing emphatically for 3-0. From that point onwards, Cardiff sat back, content with their lead, allowing Dominic Hyam to muster a goal that did nothing to alter the outcome of the game.

The Opposition

The Manager – Mick McCarthy

Brought in on an interim basis last season, that win back in February was part of a hot streak under the former Republic of Ireland manager’s charge that saw Mick McCarthy handed the permanent gig at the Cardiff City Stadium. With an experienced squad, McCarthy has only had to make a few tweaks over the summer to keep the Bluebirds on course for the tilt at the play-offs that they look set for this year.

Cardiff City have been absolutely prodigious from set-pieces this season, with their centre-back, Aden Flint, currently top-scorer. Mick McCarthy has helped an experienced and physical outfit embrace what they’re best at, being well-organised and dogged to keep themselves in games and loading opposing penalty area whenever possible to give them a chance at the other end. With three wins from six, it has proved to be a pretty effective formula but they’ll be looking to step things up with a victory here to move them into the top six.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Phillips; Nelson, Flint, Morrison; Ng, Vaulks, Pack, Bagan; Colwill; Collins, Moore.
Possible Line-Up

Cardiff City’s central defensive trio of Aden Flint, Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson are not only important for this team for their defensive prowess, but their threat at the other end of the pitch too. As mentioned, the giant Aden Flint is the team’s top-scorer due to his ability to attack the ball in the opposing area, while Sean Morrison has a goal and assist to his name already.

In Kieffer Moore, Cardiff have one of the Championship’s best strikers and another significant physical presence in the penalty area, with a good all-round game to him too. Moore is yet to get going this season due to a lack of fitness, but is likely to start here having gradually been brought into contention in recent games.

Supplying the bullets for Moore, Flint, Morrison et al is former Coventry City loanee, Ryan Giles. As was apparent when with the Sky Blues last year, Giles’ pace and directness out wide makes him hard for opposing defences to contain. A willing crosser, having tall guys who can attack the ball well has seen Giles emerge as one of the best creative players in the Championship, with four assists to his name already. However, he may miss this game after sitting out of Sunday’s win over Nottingham Forest through illness.

In addition, Will Vaulks in midfield provides another string to Cardiff’s bow with his long throws. Youngster, Rubin Colwill, enjoyed a breakthrough performance at the weekend and could supply a further dimension to Cardiff’s attacking play as someone who can exploit the areas between Coventry City’s defence and midfield. if entrusted with the start here.

Where The Game Will Be Won or Lost

Coventry City are going to have to defend crosses into the penalty area resolutely in order to have a chance in this game. Cardiff City will load the box at every opportunity – whether that’s set-pieces, throw-ins or open play – which means that they’ll feel they’ll always have a chance of scoring in this game, which is going to be a test of both organisation and concentration at the back.

There are likely to be spells in this game where the Sky Blues will be on top, however, Cardiff have the experience and physicality at the back to be able to soak up pressure. In fact, they may well invite that in order to open the game up for themselves on the counter-attack through Ryan Giles, if fit, Rubin Colwill and Kieffer Moore.

There may be a temptation for Mark Robins to set the Sky Blues to counter-attack themselves, given its success in the second-half against a similar team in Middlesbrough. Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare should be able to cause Cardiff’s experienced back-line problems when running directly at them. However, the danger is that if the team drops too deep to lure Cardiff up the pitch, it makes it easier for them to load the box in open play and win set-pieces in dangerous areas. A positive, high-pressing approach may be the best option for Coventry City here.

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